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23 Habits of People Who Are Hypervigilant

For those who experience hypervigilance, habits that form in response to certain stimuli can be tough to break. Hypervigilance can make you feel constantly on edge or “high alert,” which can feel frustrating and even exhausting. The habitual reactions seem to happen automatically, as if you can’t control how your body responds.

• What is PTSD?

Some habits make you concerned about your safety. (Doors and windows must always be locked). Others make you sensitive to the things that surround you. (If I’m around too much noise, I have to leave.) 

We wanted to know the kinds of habits people who experience hypervigilance have, so we reached out to our mental health community. If you have anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and experience hypervigilance, you may be able to relate.

Here’s what they shared with us:

  1. “I am always in sight of the door or exit. Always. I can almost never fully immerse myself in anything because I have to be aware of the exits.” — Kristen M.
  2. “It has to be quiet. If I’m around too much noise, I will leave. If there is too much noise, I can’t hear if I need to run or if everything is OK. Chaos makes me feel completely unsafe.” — Angela L.
  3. “Always looking in the back seat of my car before getting in. Constantly looking over my shoulder. Never sitting somewhere where the exit is blocked by someone else. Always have your back to the wall and never in the corner.” — Jennifer G.
  4. “I zone people out who are talking to me or near me in order to hear and be fully aware of my surroundings.” –Mariah M.
  5. “When I’m out in public: stopping mid-conversation with family/friends because I see someone in the distance acting with odd behaviors and/or looking threatening.” –Lou W.
  6. “People watching: I scan faces, outfits, anything that I can pick up on to recognize them if I see them again. If I see the same person in a store more than twice within 10 to fifteen minutes, I start looking for the exits.” — Oliver T.
  7. “I always look for anything that may make a loud noise and I constantly anticipate it making that noise. Any time someone comes into a room or space, I have a mini-panic attack because I’m expecting them to slam the door and I’m expecting the noise.” — Jesse F.
  8. “I cannot sit with my back to a door. I always make sure I know where exits are, plan what I can use as a weapon if needed. I also took an active shooter class.” — Kellie L.
  9. “My husband has BPD. He is hypervigilant and it makes he a very skilled driver. But it also makes him constantly think that someone is going to attack him so he constantly analyzes people and situations. He also plans escape routes and defense strategies.”– Kelly S.
  10. “List making. I’ve been getting this weird one lately that a tsunami is gonna happen and I need to make a list to know what to grab. I’ve done this for hours, just rewriting the same list. Pacing around the house.”–Megan R.
  11. “I have a habit of locking all doors immediately after I get inside. Once I am in the car or house, I have to lock the door immediately and even then, I will still constantly check to make sure it’s locked.”–Suewanda B.
  12. “If I’m out getting groceries I lock my car multiple times. When I’m loading the car with my groceries, I make sure the only door that is unlocked is the one I’m at. Lock that door when I put my cart back then as soon as I open the driver door to get in, I lock it again.”–Rachel S.
  13. “The slightest noise has my heart racing. Sudden movements make me jump.”– Zan P.
  14. “I have a very strong reaction when my legs are touched (with hands), especially my knees, and I developed an unconscious habit to keep them turned away from people when seated close; if someone does touch my knee or leg, I automatically, without thought, take their hand and move it back toward them.” — Rebekah W.
  15. “I’m constantly checking to see who’s behind me, in line I basically have to stand sideways or have my back to the wall.” — Bryce A.
  16. “When in doubt, know a way out. By the time I walk in a place, I’m already planning on how I’m going to walk out. I always map out the room in my head.” — Ocean D.
  17. “Before I leave my apartment, I head to the window to see who is around before I head outside.” — Nicole P.
  18. “Falling asleep is something I fought so long that it actually makes me afraid to relax. I have to be as aware of my surroundings and the people in them constantly.” –Selena W.
  19. “I always ask before I get in the van but they know that I have to sit in the first row behind the driver seat. It just makes me feel safe there.” — Vicki C.
  20. “I always know where safety equipment is, how to use it, where all the exits are and my phone is always in my hand.”–Miranda-May D.
  21. “Flinching at the sound of strangers who raise their voice.” — Jessie K.
  22. “Morning coffee, then writing. If I miss the routine, my day is screwed.” — Quill S.
  23. “I sleep with my big dog because he always lets me know the second he hears something funny. I also have my metal baseball bat on the other side of the bed.”– Reins C.

If you can relate to dealing with hyperviligance habits, check out these posts below:

Unsplash via Aldo Delara

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